Learning from Saint Matthew (part 1)
David Parry reflects this week on Saint Matthew the tax collector.
Wrth fynd heibio oddi yno gwelodd Iesu ddyn a elwid Mathew yn eistedd wrth y dollfa, a dywedodd wrtho, “Canlyn fi.” Cododd yntau a chanlynodd ef.
Ac yr oedd wrth bryd bwyd yn ei dŷ, a dyma lawer o gasglwyr trethi ac o bechaduriaid yn dod ac yn cydfwyta gyda Iesu a’i ddisgyblion. A phan welodd y Phariseaid, dywedasant wrth ei ddisgyblion, “Pam y mae eich athro yn bwyta gyda chasglwyr trethi a phechaduriaid?”
Clywodd Iesu, a dywedodd, “Nid ar y cryfion ond ar y cleifion y mae angen meddyg. Ond ewch a dysgwch beth yw ystyr hyn, ‘Trugaredd a ddymunaf, nid aberth’. Oherwydd i alw pechaduriaid, nid rhai cyfiawn, yr wyf fi wedi dod.”
Mathew 9: 9-13
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.
And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?”
But when Jesus heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
Matthew 9: 9-13
Reverend David Parry writes:
I see that borders are in the news again. It still isn’t clear how Brexit will affect goods crossing the Irish Sea, within the UK, far less future trade with our neighbours. Every opinion or promise is contested, every forecast immediately discredited. And while we argue from our fixed positions, desperate people cross the Channel or Mediterranean in overloaded boats.
I wonder what Saint Matthew would say about it? He certainly knew all tariffs and customs. We first meet him on an ordinary working day. He would have been a familiar figure to those queueing at that booth. No doubt they flattered and appeased him to his face but heartily despised him behind his back. Matthew was a daily reminder that a corrupt and pitiless regime – and his own greed – held all the power. No payment, no passage. No cut for the tax collector, no livelihood at all.
Even two thousand years later, what happened next has the power to surprise. What would make you get up from your workplace or responsibilities and never return? Surely it would take more than hearing a stranger say, “Follow me.”
Jesus cut through all the external circumstances of Matthew’s life and deep to his soul with his simple and direct invitation. I do mean “invitation”, not command. There is a gentle empathy and compassion in that moment, characteristic of Jesus. Though Lord of the Universe and our Creator, He allows us to accept or reject His call. Matthew said yes, then crossed the border he thought he would never get past, from one kingdom to another: from sin to Salvation.
What strikes me though is that those who have been invited across borders invite others to cross with them. We next see Matthew at the feast he has thrown for his Saviour, offering a radical hospitality to others who like him are deemed unacceptable to the religious elite. The critics see only their sinfulness and want to keep them shut out. Matthew sees them with the eyes of Jesus – and lifts the barrier.
You will have your own application of this Gospel passage to the politics of today. If there were simple solutions all could accept, no doubt we would have already found them. However in my prayers I keep returning to the people in today’s photograph. Those who do not have our wealth or power, who do not share our national citizenship or perhaps our religious respectability. They wait beyond the border, behind the wire, outside the Church.
I long for everyone who is waiting outside not to be met with hostility, control or fear, but with an unexpected hospitality – to hear those compassionate and life-changing words, “follow me”.
Dduw, ffynhonnell pob sancteiddrwydd a rhoddwr pob peth da,
boed i ni sydd wedi cyfranogi wrth y bwrdd hwn
fel dieithriaid a phererinion yma ar y ddaear
gael ein croesawu gyda’th holl saint
i’r wledd nefol ar ddydd dyfodiad dy deyrnas;
trwy Iesu Grist ein Harglwydd. Amen.
God, the source of all holiness and giver of all good things:
may we who have shared at this table
as strangers and pilgrims here on earth
be welcomed with all your saints
to the heavenly feast on the day of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
You are warmly invited to Zoom Coffee tomorrow morning, at 10.30am on Tuesday, for friendly and engaging conversation about this week’s theme, and of course a great way to belong.
[Meeting ID: 881 3417 1456; Passcode: 430751]